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'New Evidence' Comes To Light Concerning Georgian Premier Zhvania's Death

Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in February 2005.
Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania was found dead in February 2005.
Giorgi Zhvania said this week that new evidence has surfaced regarding the death in February 2005 of his brother Zurab, who was then Georgia's prime minister. The father of Kvemo Kartli deputy governor Rasul Yusupov, whose body was found with Zhvania’s in a rented Tbilisi apartment, described that new evidence in an interview with the TV channel TV-3 and predicted that “soon we shall all see” that the official verdict, according to which the two men died of carbon-monoxide poisoning from a faulty heater, was wrong.

From the outset, Giorgi Zhvania questioned the official account of his brother’s death, citing circumstantial evidence suggesting the two men died elsewhere and their bodies were then transported to the apartment where they were found. One year ago, he openly accused three former senior government officials -- former Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili, former Deputy Prime Minister Giorgi Baramidze, and former Prosecutor General Zurab Adeishvili -- of having done so and of making it look as though the two men died of asphyxiation.

Giorgi Zhvania said those officials were acting at the behest of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. He stressed, however, that he is “not saying that it was these persons who killed my brother” and he did not mention an alternative cause of death.

Merabishvili has since been arrested on multiple charges, including obstructing the course of justice in a murder case. He is currently on trial on suspicion of having diverted budget funds to finance the ENM’s parliamentary election campaign last year.

According to investigative journalist Vakhtang Komakhidze, Adeishvili made a call to Zurab Zhvania’s mobile phone the night he died, after which Zhvania left his home without saying where he was headed. Adeishvili left Georgia late last year; in January, a Tbilisi court ordered his arrest on a charge of financial machinations.

Within weeks of the defeat of Saakashvili’s United National Movement in the October 2012 parliamentary election, the new government announced its intention of reopening the investigation into the deaths of Zhvania and Yusupov.

Giorgi Zhvania told a press conference in February 2013 on the eighth anniversary of his brother’s death that since the change of regime, “new details” had emerged and unnamed persons had come forward and volunteered to assist the investigation.

He also reiterated that the previous government falsified crucial evidence, in particular mistranslating from English into Georgian the written conclusion by FBI investigators who flew to Tbilisi to help clarify what happened. Those investigators reportedly failed to confirm unequivocally that the cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning; the Georgian authorities nonetheless claim they did.

Yashir Yusupov for his part told TV-3 this week that his son was found to be wearing shoes of different sizes and make, and that his trousers were so muddy that no one with any self respect would have left home wearing them. “This was a planned killing of a political character and everyone knows that,” Yusupov was quoted as saying.

But as analyst Mikheil Getsadze points out, Zurab Zhvania had no known enemies, and no one stood to benefit from his death.

Commenting on October 17 on the statements by the dead men’s relatives, President Saakashvili again affirmed that “everyone knows what happened, it was a tragic accident."

Both Giorgi Zhvania and Yashir Yusupov say that if the ongoing investigation fails to clarify the true cause of death, the bodies will be exhumed.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.


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